It was clear right after the premiere of “Persona Non Grata”, a story about Chiune Sugihara, a Japanese diplomat that saved thousands of lives in the verge of the Holocaust, that the movie would become a hit in the Sugihara's home country. And it did. It also attracted a record number of Japanese tourists to Kaunas, Lithuania - the city where the events took place in 1940.
‘It was a gift, really - we would receive up to 300 Japanese tourists a year and more than 2000 have already visited our bureau in 2016’, said Mindaugas Žiedelis, head of the Kaunas Tourism Information Centre, in a 15min.lt article by Raimonda Mikalčiūtė-Urbonė.
2000 is just a small part of the real number of Japanese tourists in Kaunas, though. In 2015, 13.5 thousand visited the Sugihara House, a former Japanese consulate in the quiet and picruresque neighbourhood of Žaliakalnis. Simonas Dovidavičius, the general manager of the museum, says the number for 2016 will be even higher.
Dovidavičius believes the record numbers are not a miracle but a result of hard work by everyone invlolved - Sugihara House, local tourism companies, guides, hotels, restaurants and connections between tourism offices in the three Baltic states. He also reveals there are plans to expand the museum and its exhibitions to make it even more attractive to visitors - and, of course, to invite them to stay longer.
We at “It’s Kaunastic” have published a special Japanese-language map of Kaunas dedicated to the legacy of Chiune Sugihara. An updated edition will be published in the beginning of 2017 - in English, too. In the meantime, you are welcome read the English version in our blog here.